France Bans Plastic
3rd April 2017
In the last twelve months, French authorities have brought in bans on various different single use, “non-recyclable” plastic items, such as plastic bags and crockery. As of the 1st July 2016, all plastic carrier bags thinner than 50 microns, and with a volume of less than 10 litres, can no longer be given to consumers by any retailer, regardless of whether there is a charge or not. As a comparison, the levy in the UK applies to bags which are less than 70 microns thick given by retailers with more than 250 employees. Thicker ‘bags-for-life’ can still be handed out, albeit for a small charge, and the supermarket Monoprix has brought in paper bags (with a small charge) for consumers.
The beginning of 2017 saw the introduction of an extension to this ban. As of New Year’s Day, small plastic bags used for fruit and vegetables, as well as meat and fish, are banned in favour of compostable bags made from ‘bio-sourced materials’. The result of this extension is that plastic bags less than 50 microns thick will be a very rare sight in French shops. As part of this, the legislation notes some targets for the percentage of the material used to manufacture bags which must be biodegradable. This rises from 30% in January 2017, to 50% by 2020 and 60% in 2025.
The French government has also brought in legislation which, from 2020, will ban all plastic cups, plates and cutlery. From 2020 onwards, all plastic crockery and cutlery must be made from ‘biologically sourced material’. Similar to the ban on plastic bags, this legislation is part of an initiative called the ‘Energy Transition for Green Growth’. This initiative, very broadly aims to tackle climate change.
Whether or not bans are the best strategy is certainly a question open to debate. The British government is opposed to flat bans, such as one on non-recyclable packaging (see here), whilst it seems the French are much more in favour of this approach.